Verse 4. For my love they are my adversaries. They hate me because I love them. One of our poets says of the Lord Jesus -- "Found guilty of excess of love." Surely it was his only fault. Our Lord might have used all the language of this complaint most emphatically -- they hated him without a cause and returned him hatred for love. What a smart this is to the soul, to be hated in proportion to the gratitude which it deserved, hated by those it loved, and hated because of its love. This was a cruel case, and the sensitive mind of the psalmist writhed under it.
But give myself unto prayer. He did nothing else but pray. He became prayer as they became malice. This was his answer to his enemies, he appealed from men and their injustice to the Judge of all the earth, who must do right. True bravery alone can teach a man to leave his traducers unanswered, and carry the case unto the Lord.
"Men cannot help but reverence the courage that walketh amid calumnies unanswering."
"He standeth as a gallant chief unheeding shot or shell."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 4. (first clause). None prove worse enemies than those that have received the greatest kindnesses, when once they turn unkind. As the sharpest vinegar is made of the purest wine, and pleasant meats turn to the bitterest humours in the stomach; so the highest love bestowed upon friends, being ill digested or corrupt, turns to the most unfriendly hatred, proximorum odia sunt acerrima. --Abraham Wright.
Verse 4. For my love they are my adversaries; that's an ill requital; but how did David requite them? We may take his own word for it; he tells us how, "But I give myself unto prayer"; yea, he seemed a man wholly given unto prayer. The elegant conciseness of the Hebrew is, "But I prayer"; we supply it thus, "But I give myself unto prayer." They are sinning against me, requiting my love with hatred, "But I give myself unto prayer." But for whom did he pray? Doubtless he prayed and prayed much for himself; he prayed also for them. We may understand these words, "I give myself unto prayer", two ways. First I pray against their plots and evil dealings with me (prayer was David's best strength always against his enemies), yet that was not all. But, secondly, "I give myself unto prayer", that the Lord would pardon their sin, and turn their hearts, when they are doing me mischief; or, though they have done me mischief, I am wishing them the best good. David (in another place) showed what a spirit of charity he was clothed with, when no reproof could hinder him from praying for others, Psalms 141:5 . --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 4. The translator of the Syriac version has inserted in Psalms 109:4 Arabic "and I have prayed for them", as if he had copied them from the words of our Lord in Matthew 5:44 , where in the Syriac version of the New Testament we have exactly the same construction. It is in keeping with the inscription of the Psalm, which applies it directly to Christ. It would seem as if the Translator understood this verse of the crucifixion and of the Redeemer's prayer for his murderers, or as if the only way to understand the elliptical language of the Psalmist was from the teaching and example of our Lord. --E.T. Gibson, of Crayford.
Verse 4. I prayer. The Messiah says in this prophetic psalm, "I am prayer." During his pilgrimage on earth, his whole life was communion with God; and now in his glory, he is constantly making intercession for us. But this does not exhaust the idea, "I am prayer." He not merely prayed and is now praying, he not merely teaches and influences us to pray, but he is prayer, the fountain and source of all prayer, as well as the foundation and basis of all answers to our petitions. He is the Word in this sense also. From all eternity his Father heard him, heard him as interceding for that world which, created through him, he represented, and in which, through him, divine glory was to be revealed. In the same sense, therefore, in which he is light and gives light, in which he is life and resurrection, and therefore quickens, Jesus is prayer. --Adolph Saphir, in Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, 1870.
Verse 4. Persecuted saints are men of prayer, yea, they are as it were made up all of prayer. David prayed before; but, oh, when his enemies fell a persecuting of him, then he gave himself up wholly to prayer. Oh, then he was more earnest; more fervent, more frequent, more diligent, more constant, and more abundant in the work of prayer! When Numa, king of the Romans, was told that his enemies were in arms against him, he did but laugh at it, and answered, "And I do sacrifice"; so when persecutors arm themselves against the people of God, they do but divinely smile and laugh at it, and give themselves the more up to prayer. When men arm against them, then they arm themselves with all their might to the work of prayer; and woe, woe to them that have armies of prayers marching against them. --Thomas Brooks.
Verse 4. I give myself unto prayer. The instruction to ourselves from these words is most comforting and precious. Are we bowed down with sorrow and distress? "I give myself unto prayer." Are we persecuted, and reviled, and compassed about with words of hatred? "I give myself unto prayer." Has death entered our dwellings? And as we gaze in heart-broken anguish on the no longer answering look of one who was our earthly stay, and we feel as if all hope as well as all help were gone, still there remains the same blessed refuge for all the Lord's sorrowing ones, "I give myself unto prayer." In the allegory of the ancients. Hope was left at the bottom of the casket, as the sweetener of human life; but God, in far richer mercy, gives prayer as the balm of human trial. --Barton Bouchier.
Verse 4. A Christian is all over prayer: he prays at rising, at lying down, and as he walks: like a prime favourite at court, who has the key to the privy stairs, and can wake his prince by night. --Augustus Montague Toplady, 1740-1778.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 4. On the excellency of prayer. See Expository Notes.
Verse 4. Our Lord's adversaries, and his resort.
- David's spirit and conduct towards his enemies.
- His spirit is love -- love for hatred; hence his denunciations are against their sins, rather than against them.
- His conduct. He returned good for evil; he interceded for them.
- Their spirit and conduct towards him.
- Hatred for love.
- Evil for good. -- G.R.